Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 94–98 | Cite as

The effect of various dietary fibres on tissue concentration and chemical form of mercury after methylmercury exposure in mice

  • Ian R. Rowland
  • Anthony K. Mallett
  • John Flynn
  • Richard J. Hargreaves
Original Investigations


The whole-body retention of mercury after exposure of BALB/c mice to methylmercury was measured in animals fed fibre-free, 5% pectin, 5% cellulose or 5, 15 or 30% wheat bran diets. The rate of elimination of mercury was dependent on the diet fed, with dietary bran increasing the rate of elimination. The incorporation of 15 or 30% bran in the diet of the mice decreased the total mercury concentration in the brain, blood and small intestine, although the effects were significant only in those animals on 30% bran diet. The fibres had little effect on mercury levels in other tissues. The proportion of mercury found in the mercuric form was significantly greater in liver, kidneys and gut of mice fed bran. The results suggest that dietary bran may reduce the levels of mercury in the brain after methylmercury exposure and may therefore reduce the neurotoxic effects of the organomercurial. We suggest that wheat bran exerts its effects on mercury retention and brain level via a modification of the metabolic activity of the gut microflora.

Key words

Methylmercury Mercury Gut microflora Dietary fibre Wheat bran 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barltrop D (1976) The influence of nutritional factors on the absorption of lead. Final report to US Dept Health Eduction & Welfare, Atlanta, GAGoogle Scholar
  2. Barltrop D, Khoo HE (1975) The influence of nutritional factors on lead absorption. Postgrad Med J 51: 975Google Scholar
  3. Cappon CJ, Smith JC (1977) Gas chromatographic determination of inorganic mercury and organomercurials in biological materials. Anal Chem 49: 365–369Google Scholar
  4. Cremer JE, Seville MP (1983) Regional brain blood flow, blood volume and haematocrit values in the adult rat. Journal of Cerebral Blood Row and Metabolism 3: 254–256Google Scholar
  5. Engström B, Nordberg G (1978) Effect of milk diet on gastrointestinal absorption of cadmium in adult mice. Toxicology 9: 195–202Google Scholar
  6. Geigy Scientific Tables (1982) Vol. 2, Lentner C (ed), Ciba-Geigy, Basle, p 214Google Scholar
  7. Ismail-Beigi F, Faraji B, Reinhold JG (1977) Binding of zinc and iron to wheat bread, wheat bran, and their components. Am J Clin Nutr 30: 1721–1725Google Scholar
  8. Kiyozumi M, Mishima M, Noda S, Miyata K, Takahashi Y, Mizunaga F, Nakagawa M, Kojima S (1982) Studies on poisonous metals IX. Effects of dietary fibers on absorption of cadmium in rats. Chem Pharmacol Bull (Tokyo) 30: 4494–4499Google Scholar
  9. Kostial K, Simonovic I, Rabar I, Landeka M (1981) Effect of rat's diet on 85Sr, 115mCd, and 203Hg absorption in suckling rats. Environ Res 25: 287–285Google Scholar
  10. Landry TD, Doherty RA, Gates AH (1979) Effects of three diets on mercury excretion after methylmercury administration. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 22: 151–158Google Scholar
  11. Levander OA (1979) Lead toxicity and nutritional deficiencies. Environ Hlth Perspect 29: 115–125Google Scholar
  12. Mahaffey KR (1981) Nutritional factors in lead poisoning. Nutr Rev 39: 353–362Google Scholar
  13. Mallett AK, Rowland IV, Bearne CA (1986) Influence of wheat bran on some reductive and hydrolytic enzyme activities of the rat cecal flora. Nutr Cancer 8: 125–131Google Scholar
  14. Miettinen JK (1973) Absorption and elimination of dietary mercury (Hg2+) and methylmercury in man. In Miller MW, Clarkson TW (eds) mercuirals and mercaptans, Charles C, Thomas, Springfield Ill. pp 233–243Google Scholar
  15. Nakamura I, Hosokawa K, Tamura H, Muira T (1977) Reduced mercury excretion with faeces in germ-free mice after oral administration of methylmercury chloride. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 17: 528–533Google Scholar
  16. Norseth T (1973) Biliary excretion and intestinal reabsorption of mercury in the rat after injection of methyl mercuric chloride. Acta Pharmacol Toxicol 33: 280–288Google Scholar
  17. Norseth T, Clarkson TW (1971) Intestinal transport of 203Hg-labelled methylmercury chloride. Arch Environ Hlth 22: 568–577Google Scholar
  18. Rowland IR, Davies MJ, Grasso P (1978) Metabolism of methylmercuric chloride by the gastrointestinal flora of the rat. Xenobiotica 8: 37–43Google Scholar
  19. Rowland IR, Davies MJ, Evans JG (1980) Tissue content of mercury in rats given methylmercuric chloride orally: influence of intestinal flora. Arch Environ Hlth 35: 155–160Google Scholar
  20. Rowland IR, Wise A, Mallett AK (1983) Metabolic profile of caecal microorganisms from rats fed indigestible plant cell-wall components. Fd Chem Toxicol 21: 25–29Google Scholar
  21. Rowland IR, Robinson RD, Doherty RA (1984) Effects of diet on mercury metabolism and excretion in mice given methylmercury: role of the gut flora. Arch Environ Hlth 39: 401–408Google Scholar
  22. Rowland IR, Mallett AK, Wise A (1985) The effect of diet on the mammalian gut flora and its metabolic activities. Crit Rev Toxicol 16: 31–103Google Scholar
  23. Schwartz SE, Levine GE, Starr CM (1982) Effects of dietary fiber on intestinal ion fluxes in rats. Am J Clin Nutr 36: 1102–1105Google Scholar
  24. Seko Y, Muira T, Takahashi M, Koyama T (1981) Methylmercury decomposition in mice treated with antibiotics. Acta Pharmacol Toxicol 49: 259–265Google Scholar
  25. Snedecor GW, Cochran WG (1967) Statistical methods, 6th Edition, Iowa State University Press, pp 159–160Google Scholar
  26. Walsh CT (1982) The influence of age on the gastrointestinal absorption of mercuric chloride and methyl mercury chloride in the rat. Environ Res 27: 412–420Google Scholar
  27. Wise A, Mallett AK, Rowland IR (1982) Dietary fibre, bacterial metabolism and toxicity of nitrate in rat. Xenobiotica 12: 111–118Google Scholar
  28. Zimmer LJ, Carter DE (1970) The efficacy of 2,3-dimercaptopropanol and D-penicillamine on methylmercury induced neurological signs and weight loss. Life Sci 23: 1025–1034Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian R. Rowland
    • 1
  • Anthony K. Mallett
    • 1
  • John Flynn
    • 1
  • Richard J. Hargreaves
    • 1
  1. 1.The British Industrial Biological Research AssociationCarshaltonUK

Personalised recommendations